May 7, 2016 Subject:
I Loved Every Minute Of It
The steamer Nevada left Auckland New Zealand in January of 1873. Onboard are a number of travelers including Isabella Bird, who is traveling for her health. When another passenger takes ill, his Mother asks Isabella to disembark with them at Honolulu so they are not in a foreign land all alone. Thinking she will be there a short while, she actually begins a six-month journey, which she chronicles in a series of unabridged letters to her Sister back home. For those who have visited Hawaii or those who wonder what the islands were like before being annexed to the United States, these writings are pure joy.
Isabella arrives as a foreigner, but in a short time learns of the beauty of the various islands and begins to understand the diverse culture of the people.
She travels as an unescorted woman in a country, which has recently converted from aboriginal customs and inter-island wars, to the relatively peaceful paradise known in modern times. From simple observations of looking down at clouds on Maui at sunrise, to the unexpected earthquakes while standing next to a bubbling caldron of creation itself, you follow her adventures in well-written communications, which inform and entertain.
As she stood in snow, gazing down at the crater 800 feet below her, she wrote "The mystery was solved, for at one end of the crater, in a deep gorge of its own, above the level of the rest of the area, there was the lonely fire, the reflection of which, for six weeks, has been seen for 100 miles."
What she witnessed upon King Lunalilo's arrival in Hilo, brought tears to my eyes. Although they were beginning life under a form of government, the natives treated their king to a touching procession unlike anywhere else in the world. Many of the citizens had little or no money for clothes and wore what they had to meet him.
Some also brought gifts as Isabella writes: "One woman, sorely afflicted with quaking palsy, dragged herself slowly along. One hand hung by her side helpless, and the other grasped a live fowl so tightly that she could not loosen it to shake hands, whereupon the king raised the helpless arm, which called forth much cheering." A poor cripple who had only the use of his arms, drug himself two miles to lie for a moment at his kings feet. He too carried a gift.
Reading Isabella Birds' letters allows you to see first hand the magic the islands has on a visitor's soul and how easy it is to fall under the spell of the Hawaiian people.
I suggest getting a detailed map of the islands to follow along.